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What is sexual performance anxiety?

7th May 2020

Performance anxiety can occur in a number of scenarios like public speaking, sports or playing a musical instrument. But sex is supposed to be fun (mind-blowing, if you’re lucky) so what happens if performance anxiety is affecting you there too?

What is sexual performance anxiety?

Like the name suggests, this is when the thought of perhaps not performing well or not pleasing your partner in the bedroom can cause negative feelings. It can be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as being worried or anxious about sex can actually make you not perform as well.

The problem is more common in men and may lead to erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, but it can also affect women and prevent them from getting as lubricated.

What causes sexual performance anxiety?

There are a number of factors that can lead to sexual performance anxiety. This can be due to poor body image due to being overweight or being concerned that your penis size won’t be big enough. It can also be due to worrying about ejaculating too quickly or taking too long to orgasm. Mostly, it’s the fear that you won’t satisfy your partner, and either they or you (or both) won’t be able to enjoy the experience.

Sexual performance anxiety can also be linked to problems in your relationship or general stress due to work or daily life.

Symptoms of sexual performance anxiety

Sex is never just about the body and what’s going on in your head can have a big impact. Firstly, feeling anxious can lead to a loss of libido and make you less interested in sex. Feeling like you or your partner won’t enjoy the experience can put you off from wanting to do it at all.

Performance anxiety can lead to your body producing stress hormones, which narrow your blood vessels. This can make it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection, even if you don’t normally suffer from erectile dysfunction.

Your orgasms can also be affected by anxiety. For men, this may cause premature ejaculation, whereas for women it’s more likely to make you unable to orgasm at all.

It can become a cycle of problems because the more anxiety you have, the more problems it can cause, which can cause more anxiety.

How to deal with sexual performance anxiety

There’s no magic cure for performance anxiety but there are a number of steps you can take to try and avoid it. Try not to dwell on any sexual experiences that may have been disappointing - everyone has “off” days and there’s no need to measure yourself against them.

Try to communicate openly with your partner. Good communication is the key to all good sex and while you may be worrying that you’re not doing well enough, it may be exactly as your partner likes it.

Don’t rush yourself and take time with your partner to enjoy the experience. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable, not pressured so take your time and engage all your senses. Make it about more than just penetration.

Stay out of your own head. Analysing the situation will only make you overthink and worry more. It’s likely that you’re being harder on yourself than you should so try to enjoy sex for the sensual experience it is, rather than the competitive sport your brain is making it.

If your anxiety subsides but your sexual problems persist then they may be due to another reason and it could be worth speaking to your doctor.

Erectile dysfunction and sexual performance anxiety

Erectile dysfunction is a more common condition than most people realise and it can affect men for a whole host of reasons. One of these reasons is performance anxiety, as the stress it causes can have a negative effect on the blood vessels in the penis.

Other factors that can cause erectile dysfunction are stress, drinking alcohol, low testosterone, injury, smoking, diet, chronic illnesses and medications. Thankfully there are a number of effective erectile dysfunction treatments including Viagra and Cialis which are available from UK Meds without an existing prescription.